Google VR Pilot Mesmerizes Students
Although Lindsey Berg, a Hartshorn School fifth-grader, didn’t pack a sun hat last Friday, she took a trip to Africa nonetheless.
Google Expedition: VR for Educational Purposes
The 10-year-old school kid was among those her school picked to participate in a pilot of Google Expedition, an innovative program that gives students the opportunity to learn on teacher-led virtual reality trips. The technology used are cell phones held in cardboard frames—basically the same thing Google’s existing virtual reality product, Google Cardboard, uses.
This is the first time the tech will be used for educational purposes, according to Fitzomon Ogbo, a Google associate assisting with the technical aspects of the program said.
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Ogbo said that teachers are now using Google Expedition to take their students on virtual tours of coral reefs, various landscapes and countries, including Greece and Egypt. He added that the program is being tested in select schools in the United States and worldwide.
Tours and Expeditions
On the 20th of May, students at Hartshorn School participated in the program and “toured” the United States monuments, an arctic ecosystem, the world of sharks, and the Great Barrier Reef. Lindsey particularly enjoyed her class’s tour of Gombe National Park, where she said she learned about Jane Goodall’s wildlife research and explored her home. She shared, “I was surprised to see how she had all these screens on her windows so bugs and animals wouldn’t just fly into her house.”
“You can just look into the glasses and you step into a whole new world, and you see things that you might never be able to see in your whole entire life,” Lindsey said of Google Expedition experience.
Teacher Patricia Murphy who was among the educators to lead the students through the virtual worlds worked from a tablet. She spoke as the students cycled through the various scenes from Goodall’s life, the Great Barrier Reef, and other tours.
“We’ve studied both of those topics in our science classroom,” Murphy said. “We’re studying oceanography and we’re studying the coral reefs.
“Typically, we see just pictures or movies. Here you felt like you were really there, and you could point out the different organisms that are there and why they are at that different level, that zone of the ocean.”
According to Eric Demel, the school’s technology integration specialist, all sixteen classes in second through fifth grade at the school participated in the pilot. He’d applied for the school to participate in the pilot about a month ago. He said Google intends to roll out the program to the public by September.
“Seeing how this is going to work in their own classroom, they’ll be able to do this experience on their own in the near future,” Demel said.